GEM is a band from Utrecht, The Netherlands. The five-piece, founded in 2003, plays energetic rock, mixing grit with melody. GEM has released four albums of which Hunters Go Hungry (2011) is the newest.
The story of GEM starts in 2003 when singer Maurits Westerik joins forces with guitarist Bas de Graaff and bassist Vincent Lemmen. With the addition of second guitarist Simon Bonner the band records its first demo in Studio Moskou in Utrecht. Tony van Best drums on the tracks.
When word gets out that The Libertines are to play in the Melkweg in Amsterdam, Westerik on a longshot sends a link to some of their MP3s and asks if the band could play as opening act. The programmers at the Melkweg concur, obviously liking the songs of the inexperienced band. Not only does GEM open before The Libertines, they even give a much more exciting performance than their British colleagues. The buzz around the band's performance in Amsterdam spreads. Soon the band receives a feature story in 3voor12, an important webplatform for alternative music. The band also lands a spot on a compilation record in the Unsigned Series, an initiative of the Dutch Pop Institute. GEM fits in well with the other bands on the record which is called College Radio: Alternative Rock Songs. With two new band members, Jeroen Kikkert (bass) and Ilco Slikker (drums), the band enters the studio of producer Frans Hagenaars. Two tracks are recorded for the album. In addition to recording, GEM also tours for the Unsigned project. Together with Eleven, zZz and others the band plays in the big Dutch music venues (Nighttown, 013, Paradiso), steadily building a solid live reputation.
Tell Me What's New:
GEM is invited by 3voor12.nl to play in their programme during the Noorderslag festival in 2004. The week before this performance, a two-page article is published in national newspaper de Volkskrant. Thus, the word about GEM's excellence started spreading. Frans Hagenaars and Excelsior Recordings notice and are so taken with the songs and performances of GEM that offer the band a contract. To focus solely on the music, the members quit their studies and turn their full-time jobs into part-time. Right before the band enters the studio with Hagenaars the band decides to replace Simon Bonner with former member Vincent Lemmen. Together with him the band records its debut album ''Tell Me What's New''. The record showcases the raw energy of the band, it is received very well by the press. In June the band plays its first international gig at the goNORTH festival in Aberdeen, Scotland. Later that summer the band also plays several festivals in the Netherlands, such as Music In My Head, Metropolis and Lowlands. Germany is also paid a visit at the Haldern Pop Festival. In September the band plays a short Dutch tour with labelmates zZz. The song This Is Your Life is featured on the soundtrack of Dutch movie De Dominee ('The Pastor'). In early October GEM is one of several Dutch bands. Several Sub Pop representatives attend the band's performance.
In January 2005 GEM returns to the stage at the Noorderslag festival. The German TV station WDR records the band's performance. The show, together with and an interview, is aired in February on the channel's Rockpalast show. Consecutively Tell Me What's New is released on the German Haldern Pop Records, it bears a new cover. After a performance in German club Frannz the band sets out on a full blown German tour with shows in Keulen, Hamburg, Frankfurt and many other big cities.
Throughout the summer of '05 the band starts working on their second release. The song 'Good To Know You' is the backdrop of a high rotation TV commercial. Written by external songwriters Billinger and Marsman the track turns out to be the band's first hit single. Together with Spider Rico a split single is released which is only for sale at several concert dates. In December and January GEM tours Germany again.
Just before the release of the band's second release Escapades the band plays three set at the Noorderslag weekend in early 2006. Following these performances GEM plays at SXSW in Austin, Texas. British booking office ITB (Editors, We Are Scientists) signs the band while at this US festival.
In February the band's second album Escapades is released. It is a success with the critics as well as the public and performs well in the Dutch charts. The album sounds more polished than the debut but still manages to capture the energy of the band. ITB arranges for several UK performances, including a show at The Great Escape in Brighton. In addition to this GEM supported Editors in the Ambassador Theatre in Dublin, Ireland.
In December drummer Ilco Slikker and guitarist Bas de Graaff decided to leave the band, citing personal reasons. And new drummer is found in Wouter Rentema. GEM will record the new album as a four-piece!